I completed Skamania and Yakima Counties in one go on August 31. I followed the directions to Skamania County’s highest point posted on summitpost by a fellow cohp’er - http://www.summitpost.org/show/route_link.pl/route_id/5731/object_id/13
Except that I have some additional details to note:
1 – I did not find a neat junction between trail 64 (Riley Camp trail) and the PCT. I ended up going cross-country (which is not terribly difficult given the terrain) for about ¾ mile.
2 – I do not recommend bikes. Wilderness area begins about one mile into the hike, and then you will be illegal with a bike.
3 – The place where the county line crosses the west “ridge” is not clear, but the highest ground on the ridge is almost always clear. Just stick to the ridge and climb through the 8920 contour, and you will have reached the high ground.
I chose to continue up the west “ridge” to the summit. Please allow me to elaborate on what I found along the way. Rather than a ridge, I would refer to the upper section of this route as a cleaver. The uppermost part of the rock towers high above the scree slope on the south and the glacier on the north. Because of the tremendously unstable nature of the rock, and its tendency to constantly rain down chunks on the slopes below, I highly recommend staying on top of the cleaver. There is definitely some class 4 near the top of the cleaver. Finally the cleaver fades away just below the Pinnacle. This is where the real fun begins. The Pinnacle is just constantly coming apart, and throwing down various sizes of volcanic debris. I sat there at the top of the cleaver and observed for 15-20 minutes, and there was never really a break of more than 60 seconds in the rock fall. I did note that the majority of it came from the north side of the Pinnacle, and stayed to the north side of the cleaver. However, occasional pieces would bound over the top of the cleaver and make their way down the south side. Also, an occasional piece would break off of the south side of the Pinnacle. It was an interesting sensory experience – especially when one of those pieces went within 20 yards at extremely high rates of speed. So, I could clearly see that exposure to the rock fall was inevitable if I chose to continue. I DID finally continue, very rapidly making my way up and around to the south side of the Pinnacle, briefly near the edge of Blue Salmon Glacier and up to the ridgeline once again. This higher section of the Pinnacle is calmer. There is permanent snow on the north side, so I attached my crampons and kept them on to the summit and back to this point. From the top of the Pinnacle, I traversed across upper Adams Glacier (lots of sun cup action here), crossed below the summit cornice and around by the wooden lodge or shelter, then over to the summit BM. I met a young man named Alex at the top and took his picture for him. He had come up the standard route and was in a hurry to get back down. I also felt the necessity of getting down past the rock fall area and the top of the cleaver, so I did not stay long. I made it back down in good time. Approximate timeframe for the day:
5:45 am left trailhead
9:30 am reached 8920 contour and HP of Skamania County
12:00 pm reached top of cleaver
2:00 pm reached summit
2:30 pm left summit
7:30 pm back to trailhead
Summary ~14 hours, ~18-20 miles RT
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